It is almost holiday crunch time, those frantic days right before Christmas when you can no longer put off deciding what you will give family and friends.
Rather than buying more generic stuff made in China, many people are searching for gifts that are more local and meaningful. They want to give a Kentucky-made piece of art or a book by a local author. Or they want to make a donation on someone's behalf to a local group that is making a difference.
How do you choose from so many options? Here are a few suggestions based on people and organizations I wrote about this year. Just consider it a place to start.
Two organizations used the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to help tackle global problems, and they still could use help.
■ Kentucky Rotary clubs hosted Rotarians from around the country who put in a combined 22,632 volunteer hours at the Games' concession stands. That work raised $142,000 for Rotary International's polio- eradication efforts in the Third World. More information: Rotary.org/endpolio.
■ Alltech, the Nicholasville biotech company that was the Games' title sponsor, responded to January's earthquake in Haiti by adopting a school and promising to create sustainable jobs in that impoverished nation. It worked with University of Kentucky Opera Theatre to start a children's choir, which performed several times in Lexington. Alltech is selling Haitian coffee, proceeds from which benefit the effort. More information: Alltech.com/haitifund.
■ Seedleaf is making a big impact closer to home by helping Lexington's inner-city residents learn to grow and prepare nutritious food. A little goes a long way at this community garden group, so your donation gift can make a big difference. More information: Seedleaf.org
■ Another great grass-roots effort is Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop at East Sixth Street and North Limestone. Volunteers repair old bikes and sell them cheap to people who can use them for basic transportation to become more self-sufficient. The shop also teaches bike repair. More information: Facebook.com/brokespoke.
■ Horses aren't just for racing or showing; they make great therapists. Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, which has a facility at the Kentucky Horse Park, uses horses for therapy with disabled and special-needs people. A new program will help disabled war veterans. More information: CKRH.org.
■ Lexington has many fine arts organizations, but in the past year, a new one has made a big impression on a shoestring budget. Institute 193, with a small gallery at 193 North Limestone, is the brainchild of a young Lexington native, Phillip March Jones. His goal is to bring attention to the region's best underappreciated artists. Among the non-profit organization's projects this year were several inspired shows and the publication of Lexington photographer Guy Mendes' book, 40/40: 40 Years, 40 Portraits. More information: Institute193.org.
■ Larkspur Press in Monterey has a devoted following among people who appreciate fine books and fine Kentucky literature. Grey Zeitz's handmade books by Wendell Berry and other writers are themselves works of art. More information: Larkspurpress.com.
■ If you attend Gallery Hop, you know Lexington's visual-arts scene is dynamic and growing. Lexington native John Lackey, a painter and woodblock printmaker, recently opened a studio and gallery in the old Spalding's Bakery at 574 North Limestone. More information: Homegrownpress.com.
This region has many talented writers. Two good local books I read and wrote about this year, from The University Press of Kentucky, would make great gifts for local history buffs. (More information: KentuckyPress.com):
■ How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders by Maryjean Wall. The award-winning Herald-Leader racing writer, who retired to finish her doctorate in history, tells the fascinating story of how Kentucky became the world's Thoroughbred breeding capital after the Civil War. You will learn a lot from this book, even if you have lived here all your life.
■ Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920 by Estill Curtis Pennington. Later this month, I will write more about this book, which shows that fine art has flourished in the Bluegrass longer than most people think.
Now, aren't these more interesting than some of the stuff you would have found online or at a big-box store?